I love graphic novels. I think I may have said that earlier as well. They tend to be more expensive that regular books, but I find these graphic books so visually appealing. I discovered this when I was training to be an NLP practioner that I am a very visual-oriented person (which is why I love the cinema and paintings so much!)
So you can imagine my excitement and joy when I found this little gem of a book called Couch Fiction. Written by Phillipa Perry, who herself is a psychotherapist for the last two decades, and illustrated by Flo Perry, who is described as an expert who makes illustrations go viral.
Perry starts off with a short notice for the readers in which she says that this story is completely a work of fiction, but has with due permission from her clients, take some real life content and put it in the story. She also talks about how Couch Fiction is a story that may happen typically in a therapist office.
What I absolutely loved about this book was how we see the character of the therapist say one thing to the client, and at the same time making mental notes. We also see the client say what he is saying, and at the same time making mental observations about the therapist or himself. There are also some notes below some of the strips, which aims to further help us understand what’s happening in the session.
Our client is James, who is 35, who brings in with him several personal issues. It’s sheer delight for me to be able to see the process of therapy. Right from the start we have that awkward first meeting, the first revelation of the core issue, the transference and countertransference, the silent moments, the breakdown and the eventual healing. There is so much joy to see the process unfold before our eyes.
Perry does a great job of bringing in the various concepts that are common to psychotherpy: transference, counter transference, free association, attachment theory, hypnosis, breathwork, stress (flight/ fright response), dreams, affect regulation, narcissism, fantasies, feelings, placebo effect, anger among a lot of other things that can come up.
There is also a lot of joy in seeing the therapeutic relatonship between Patricia, the therapist, and James, the client. How their relationship evolves over time, the difficult moments, the tender moments, the revalatory moments. This is what forms the basis of any therapy- the relationship, without with, not much work can be done. It is important to know that this relationship is not just any relationship. This is a relationship in which the therapist is trained to hold the space for the client. This relationship will have a conversation on a conscious level, but then there is another relationship which is happening at the unconscious level. It is a very complexed and nuanced relationship.
As a psychotherapist myself, I found myself relating to a lot of what happens between Pat and James in their sessions. I found myself nodding my heading in agreement, and even saying out loud: this happened to me as well! There is a lot of comfort in this book because it validates my experience as a therapist. Things that we don’t usually talk about with others, Perry has talked about it here. Like the next page after the above page, James ask Pat if he can hug her, which leads Pat to tell him again that she is not his friend but a therapist. I’ve always wondered about that, but as we see in Pat, she handles the difficult ending session with grace and sensibility.
For the non-therapist readers, Couch Fiction is a book that will help you gain some insight into what really happens in therapy sessions. There is still a lot of stigma around therapy, whereby people still feel they may be labeled or diagnosed with some mental health disorder. This book will help them see that in psychotherapy sessions, it’s all talk therapy, and sometimes, talking it all out resolves the issues.